Minneapolis will be in the national spotlight this week as the NCAA Women's Final Four basketball tournament takes place at Target Center, and that means thousands of visitors from out of town — and local fans, too — will flow into downtown for Friday's and Sunday's games and the raft of related activities.
Festivities at the arena and the Minneapolis Convention Center will be the biggest event downtown since the start of the pandemic, said Kevin Kurtt of Meet Minneapolis, the city's convention and visitor's bureau. With big crowds expected, we've put together a guide on how to get to the fun by driving, taking public transportation, using ride-sharing apps or navigating the downtown sidewalks or skyways. And we've got answers to questions about bags and COVID-19 policies.
Driving, of course, is a popular option, and the good news is motorists won't encounter much in the way of downtown road closures. The only one planned is right outside Target Center as the southbound lanes of 1st Avenue N. will be closed between 6th and 7th streets from Thursday through Monday. Freeways and major arteries leading into and out of Minneapolis are largely construction free, so other than peak period congestion and some jams near the arena and Convention Center, drivers should find smooth sailing.
Once downtown, Minneapolis has more than 65,000 parking spaces, but for a hassle-free experience, the best advice might be to download the Minneapolis Parking App and make a reservation at a ramp or lot. Parking will likely be tightest Friday through Sunday, so having a prearranged parking place could save time and gas by not having to circle endlessly looking for a spot.
Street parking at the city's 8,700 meters is also an option, but they will be in high demand.
Most events are within walking distance of parking and one another, so "you can park in one place and stay all day," Kurtt said.
Temperatures look not terrible for Minnesota, but some might want to seek cover. The city's extensive skyway system is generally open 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, but many have shorter hours. Many building owners are extending hours this weekend to accommodate basketball fans, Kurtt said. Skyways in buildings near Target Center will be open until 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Skyways around the Convention Center will be open 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The best advice, Kurtt said, is to check signs for hours of operation. A map showing skyway routes from nearby ramps and hotels to Target Center is here, and the entire downtown system is here.
Metro Transit might have the best deal going for anybody who wants to leave the driving to somebody else. Rides on buses and light-rail trains cost just $1 through April 4 provided fares are purchased through the Metro Transit App. Special buses on Nicollet Mall are marked "Free Ride" allowing for a convenient fare-free shuttle between the Convention Center and the downtown core. Rides on other buses within the downtown zone are just 50 cents.
The agency does not plan to run extra buses or extend hours, so be sure to check the agency's trip planner to find when the last bus or train to your destination runs, and sign up for Rider Alerts to get word of unplanned schedule changes.
Uber and Lyft will pick up and drop off passengers heading to Target Center at a dedicated location on 1st Avenue N. between 7th and 8th streets in the northeast lane. Both companies instituted a fuel surcharge of 45 to 55 cents per ride in March, and that will be in effect this week.
Uber plans to bring in drivers from other cities to help manage an expected surge in demand, said spokesman Robert Kellman. The ride-hailing service is also offering incentives to drivers to ensure transportation is available, he said.
Lyft offers a "Wait & Save" option with lower fares for riders who are willing to wait longer to be picked up.
The bottom line is, "with any major event, the common sense rule of allowing for plenty of time to get to and from your destination should apply," said Lyft spokeswoman Katie Kim.
Masks and bags
Masks will not be required at either Target Center or the convention center, but a bag policy will be enforced, officials said. Proof of a COVID-19 vaccine will not be required.
At Target Center, only bags that are 5 inches by 9 inches or smaller, diaper bags and medical bags (subject to search upon entry) will be permitted. For other events, including Tourney Town and Bounce Parade at the Convention Center and the Party on the Plaza outside Target Center, a clear plastic bag policy will be in effect.
Free Women's Final Four clear bags will be distributed at the Minneapolis Convention Center by Hall B while supplies last.
Target Center has gone cashless, so a credit or debit card will be needed to buy concessions or souvenirs.
Still need help?
More than 1,000 volunteers wearing white baseball caps will provide wayfinding assistance from hotels and on the street just as they did during the 2018 Super Bowl. The Local Organizing Committee has also published a "Know Before You Go" guide at Wffmpls.com with answers to common questions.